Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Who's Failing - JEE or CAT?

Two exams in India enjoy the collective fantasy of millions of students. One of them is the IIT-JEE (Indian Institute of Technology- Joint Entrance Exam) and the other is CAT for IIMs (Common Admission Test for Indian Institute of Management).

Both the exams are tough in the sense that only one percent (or lesser) of the test takers finally manage to get an admit into these institutes through their entrance exams.

This means that if conducted properly both the tests should be able to screen out the best talent for their respective institutes & fields through these tests. Right??

Now the aim of IITs (as per my interpretation of IIT Delhi’s mission statement) is to impart higher technological education to students with a flair for science & technology and teach them principles of basic and applied research. So basically IITs are trying to nurture people who have the potential to become future technocrats & scientists.

IIMs on the other hand are trying to gauge the people who have a flair for management, people who possess qualities like managing people and resources creatively, people who can take risks, people who may not be geniuses but people who can certainly make a great business proposition out of a simple idea.

To put it in simple words, IITs are looking to train the best people among the category of people who generally have introverted intuition or thinking (ISTP type
or INTJ type). & IIMs are looking to train the best people among the category of people who generally possess extraverted thinking with introverted intuition (ENTP types or ENTJ types).

And these personality types are very different from each other. So exams that have a huge talent pool to chose from, like JEE and CAT should be easily able to screen the most talented people in their respective categories. Students without these abilities should not ace these exams no matter how "well prepared" (read well coached :P) they maybe. But unfortunately this it is not the case.

The talent pool of IITs and IIMs is greatly overlapping. IITians get into IIMs in huge numbers. IITD has an entre hostel each year full of call getters. There are no statistics to prove this for sure but my intuition and experience (:P) suggests me that there are quite a few IITians in IIMs. Only IIMC specifically tells that for one of its courses (PGDCM) there are 32 IITians in a batch of 58 students.

However, don't you think that logically speaking the raw materials for these two institutes (of great national importance) should be different. This means either of the two institutes is failing in its screening stage, ‘coz the co-existance of an Ambani and a Kalaam in the same person should be a rare event and not an event with highest probability.

And maybe that’s why the best scientists and engineers of this country like APJ Kalaam and E. Sreedharan are not from IIT and of course the list of business tycoons not from IIMs is endless; running into pages and pages.

So who’s failing in sourcing its respective talent type – JEE or CAT??

Some points to note:
1) I am only pondering & arguing about the existence of IITians in IIMs. Engineers can, and engineers should be present in management’s Mecca like IIM. But IIT is where only the so called best-of-the-best science students get into, so by definition these guys would generally not posses the best managerial skills.

2) Of course we do have talented tech guys who have made it big in the commercial sphere as executives like Bill Gates and Larry Page & Sergy Brin. But aren’t these exceptions? Moreover these people had exceptional inventions and 1 great guy with them in their initial days who had a great business acumen.


Anonymous said...

Interesting post.
My take is that a lot of qualities which JEE and CAT test overlap- an ability to think logically, number crunching etc. Thanks to the large number of aspirants for top B schools, its next to impossible to subjectively test these guys. Hence, chaps who might not be good at math but possess managerial abilities often miss out!

Also, people often end up at the IITs just due to peer pressure. At an age of 18, not too many of us have an idea of what we want to do with our lives.

Lots of other aspects to this issue- it might often not be a bad idea to have overlaps etc.

anand said...

Short answer, CAT is falling. I don't think that intuitiveness and management capabilities of an individual can be measured properly in a 150min test. The setting for actual businesses, for which IIMs will prepare these candidates, would entirely different from the rat race scenario.

Regarding lots of IITians giving CAT, the reason is simple they want a higher paying job and/or they would like to enjoy college life for two more years.

Of course, there will be some people genuinely interested in MBA. But they are more often than not outliers.

SpeedBall said...

Sugandha...why don't you give your thought a second thought!!

Well seriously...what choices does one have after 12th standard? Can an Indian student really make a choice? It has always been...get the best...prove yourself as the best race....and the best enter IITs...yes they are very well capable of becoming the Kalaam's and even surpassing his achievements...

But at IITs the students really start exploring themselves, the choices they have, potential careers they can pursue and they try to pick one...

Ofcourse the better ones do get a job in the career of their choice...but some unlucky ones have to start the race of proving themselves as the best and achieving the best...somehow they land up taking CAT...and because they were indeed proved to be the best by JEE are screened in by the CAT again...

Now the flaw...if you ask...is not in CAT/JEE...the flaw is in the admission criteria of IIMs...CAT is just a test...which ofcourse will only be able to test your mental abilities/examination temperament and other useless things....the interview is where the actual "Business acumen" should be tested....

But unfortunately it never happens with IIMs...and most of them end up as losers...

Lastly, if you think once an engineer always an engineer...then should that not apply as is to other candidates as well? Once a doc always a doc...once an coder always a coder...once a reporter always a reporter??

Ah...it was a very typical post afterall!!

amrutesh said...

A fair analysis.

Like the IITian-commentator prior to me put it, some skills are common, mostly if one chooses a career in Finance. My opinion though. Im yet to find out :D

Instead of just shouting my opinion, I have a few questions. Why do majority of the IITians(and engineers) look so disoriented when it comes to (actual) technical education?Why did IIMs change their test pattern in the beginning of this decade?ie. Verbal lost its high importance(from 50% weightage to 33%)? Why did Quantitative aptitude rise above the normal and ordinary standards of aptitude tests? Why did the third section become more reasoning oriented from plain data interpretation like bar, line and pie graphs?

What does this evolution point to? Is it linked to the increase in opportunities in the areas like Investment banking and consulting, in the recent decade? Are IIMs meant for churning out ready made managers? consultants? VPs? and CEOs?

Im wondering what do you have in mind about the VA section.What exactly do the recent VA sections test?

I have seen it over 4 years now and I can safely conclude that a lot of that talent is just going bust.

A disoriented-but-a-non-IITian-Engineer(So I know the answer for the first question :D )

Nitin said...

I'm in strong agreement here with you Sugandha. I cleared JEE but I don't think I can be a future Kalaam. I never really thought I had an acumen for technology.

I also cracked CAT, and I'm not sure If I'm going to be an Ambani. I cracked the exam not because of my 'managerial' skills, but ability to think on my feet, and a high IQ. That's about it. ACtually, I cleared JEE too because of my high IQ and slogging for a few years on the study table.

Yup, both JEE and CAT are flawed. But having said that, they do provide the industries with the creme de la creme wherein IQ is concerned. Not necessarily business or technological acumen, but atleast the best brains in the country. And the companies can pick these guys up and mould them and turn them into money making machines. Sadly this is what happens.

And its not that people in IIT don't end up in technology. Most of the people with good CGPA's from my institute are in US pursuing their MS/PhD's, and wish to pursue a career in research/academia after that. I think that is a success for IIT.

A lot of people from IIM's end up as entrepreneurs. Again that is a success for an IIM.

ISB is another institute which judges people subjectively, something which IIM's cannot afford to do. Thus I think in the longer run, its going to churn out better 'Managers' and 'Leaders' than IIM does.

Althugh your article is not 100% logically watertight, it is still a well done, thought-provoking and honest article.

Pradyot said...

Now I know why you wanted IIT Delhi's mission page! :P

Couple of 2 cents from my end -
There is no proof of relation (to my knowledge) between technical abilities and introvert tendencies. One could have technical ability and extrovert leadership tendency (ex. APJA Kalam). All I am saying is one can have analytical mind and a leader's personality.
May be IITs provide opportunities to students where they get exposed to extrovert qualities (using drama stages, music events, inter-college sports meets) thus making them good candidates for MBA!

Full disclosure for readers - I am from IIT Delhi. I don't think this post is attack on IIT/IIM so there is no need for a defense.

Prat Mitt said...

Btw, why do you think one in IIT should have introvert intuition?...may be you need to be extrovert at IIM…I think the difference is one is required to be scientific thinker…and other a practical thinker.

In my opinion, CAT fails to identify correct people…there is no dearth of technical geniuses from IITs, Silicon Valley, CBS 60 Minutes, Bill Gates, anyone can testify that…

PGDCM criteria – good marks and knowledge of computer systems in business is requirement…doesn’t this seems obvious that people at IITs are majority of those who have access to comp. 24x7 in colleges so they can probably pull out of hat something good in interview.

I think a good managerial person if had similar access, can probably will come with something better.

PS: When you need to quote IITs you can take it from wiki, sirf IIT D k mission statement ko quote kyun kiya :X

Sahil Bansal said...

I wont really blame the CAT/JEE exams....Why would IITians be poor managers....after all life at IIT is so tough, it does make a very good manager out of everyone. Similar is the case with the IIMs...you can say all they do is to make you slog like anything...
Management is just not about being an extrovert ... its being able to optimally use you resources for the benefit of the organization and all stakeholders at large. This is something that requires great technical understanding and innovative mindset.
Dont just look at all the exceptional people. Its the vast majority of high performing leaders that should indicate the success of IIT/IIM alumni.
Regarding the purpose of IIT to push research. I feel research is such an elitist field that we cannot possibly fit in 4000 people a year for that. The purpose of setting IIT was also to provide the indian companies with a good talent pool to make them globally competitive.

Abhay said...

CAT is more of a rejection process than a selection process...same with JEE.

CAT is pro'ly the biggest lottery played on a yearly basis by the student pop.

as for the personality type that the bskools want, they want conformists, not rebels...they want us to put up a show during the interview and be as fake as possible.

Prajeesh said...

Nice to see CAT and JEE analysed using MBTI. A few months ago a random online test told me I am ENTJ. But couldn't convert A, B or C.
So "CAT is falling" ?
Came here from PagalGuy.

Prat Mitt said...

Whether the exams are failing or not is not the question for me to ponder...watever it is, after cracking both, I Can say that m loving it.

N i bet you are Loving it too!

Satwinder Singh said...

I totally agree with you. Nowadays, if you ask any engineer as to what is his/her future ambition, 4 out of 5 will say they want to pursue a MBA(this I am saying on my practical experience, I have interviewed over 100 engineers and more than 80 said they wanted to become managers.) But the sad part is, that hardly anybody has the real inclination to become a manager. They are only interested in MBA for the money(job) or cause of the IIM fame. Nothing else. Most of those 100 guys I asked, were clueless as to what they want to do after finishing MBA. Most engineers also assume that MBA is the only safe option for them. As for IITians getting into IIM's, the only reason I see is lust of money and fame, nothing more(except for a few exceptions). I have written more on this topic in my blog as well.

Nice post. Keep it up.

Gaurav Dixit said...

The concern is genuine and as you rightly mentioned, these institutes are of national importance. One point where I would like to differ or rather add my perspective is , if you look at the IITians who enter the IIMs , most of them were not keen on technical education. They got into IITs owing to their hard work and high IQ. Till date the number of IITians with >9 cg entering IIMs is a negligible number. The cream of technically inclined IITs with serious research interests still go to Stan, MIT, UCB, Caltech for their masters or phds. When you are training 1000 engineers in IITs every year , you can't expect all to emerge with absolutely flying colors , adding to the dwindling number of patents and publications coming from India. But if we are able to retain the cream to work here in DRDO, HAL, IISC,TIFR,IITs then the purpose is solved. After all no IIT can expect a 100% ROI from the 4 yrs put in training.

Rohit said...

I cannot agree more with you on this !!

Really feel like running out of this country for my MBA ..but they want work ex..DAMN !!

Aditya Somani said...

I liked the way you proved that at least one of them is failing.

However, there is an assumption you have made without proving: at least one is not failing. In my view, both exams measure mere aptitude and which is just a necessary skill, not a sufficient one.

However, as far as JEE is concerned, I don't think there is any other feasible metric. For IIMs as well, given the number of applicants, I don't think they have much of a choice. So they assume that get the most intelligent guys, and they will (hopefully :P) pick up whatever else is necessary.